Friday, October 13, 2006

Blue Hawaii

My current work-in-progress is set in Hawaii.

I've never been to Hawaii.

I've gone to the library and checked out a dozen books on Hawaii. I've wasted spent numerous hours minutes on the internet procrastinating researching different aspects about Hawaii, from how long it takes to fly there to the best surfing beaches on Maui and night clubs in Honolulu. I think I might even have mastered the way to pronounce words made out of 19 vowels and only 3 consonants.

I'm a firm believer that writers can write about places they've never actually visited. How else could you account for the gazillions of historical fiction stories out there? I'm fairly certain that no one has ever actually been to 12th century Scotland or Regency London. So a good imagination can certainly overcome limited travel experience.

Thing is, the devil is in the details. I could spend the next six months researching Hawaii, but there are tiny things I need to know that I will never find out without seeing the places with my own two eyes. I want my hero to enter a well-known museum, and I need to know where the ticket counter is, or if there even is a ticket counter, and what would he be able to see from the lobby or if there even is a lobby. Stuff like this.

And these details aren't just color. There's the stuff you need to know to place your story in reality and make the reader feel like she's actually where the hero and heroine are. Then there are details that are intrinsic to the story or plot itself.

If my hero is a cop and he sees a dead body tucked behind a small wall while he's still standing in the lobby of a well-known museum, I'd better be darned sure there is a lobby in said museum, much less know if any other part of the museum can be seen when standing in it, right?

Too, there is something about seeing things with your own two eyes. Flowery descriptives in books and even photographs can kind of give you an idea of what things look like, but until you've gotten the 3-D, smell the air, hear the waves on the surf experience, a Hawaiian beach could look just the same as a Virgin Island beach or a Riveria beach or a Florida beach.

So, I'm looking to go to Hawaii. I figure if I call it research and one day actually sell the story I'm working on, I could write the whole thing off as a business trip, right? Problem is, I can't go to Hawaii any time in the next...oh, say...ten months or more. Not to mention talking the hubby into the idea that Hawaii would be the perfect place to vacation (he's so not a beach bum type of vacationer) and coming up with the funds and what to do with the kids. Details.

Honestly, I'd love to go alone. Because when I'm in book researching mode, I become...well, let's just call it a little antisocial. I'm walking around lost in my own head. I want the freedom to explore some inane detail or non-touristed off-the-beaten-track place. If I want to spend three hours walking up and down the streets of Honolulu, taking pictures and notes of businesses and other everyday minutae, I certainly don't need a hubby and two kids wondering when we're going to go back to the beach.

But a trip to Hawaii - by myself - is not even close to a possibility any time in the forseeable future. Nor is a trip to the Middle East, the other location where some of my stories are set. That particular situation has a whole set of issues that are so far beyond my ability to solve, I'd be better off setting a story on the moon.

I'm going to have to find a way to make do, short of setting all my stories in Chicago or some place within a 50 mile radius. Any ideas?


HelenKay said...

My July Brava release is set in Kauai! My hubby grew up on Oahu. his parents still live there, so we visit as often as possible. On a trip a few years back a plot idea hit me!

Good luck.

Paul said...

Hawaii is (IMO) overrated. Long flight, tropical sun making sunburn all too easy, too many other tourists...

OTOH, there's a lot more to it than just the beach. They're volcanic islands. The mountains are beautiful. You can even safely climb some of them. They also lead to a very uneven landscape in general, which means cliffs and waterfalls and gorges and such.

It also means that the soil is rich as only volcanic soil can be. Rich tropical soil means a lot of beautiful plant life. Flowers, trees, etc. Sometimes carefully landscaped to show off only the most vibrant. Sometimes left to grow into dense and naturally beautiful jungles. Sometimes, it's hard to tell the two apart.

Then, too, you've got all the big touristy resorts. Fine dining, spas, shopping, etc.

I'm not a beach person, but between hanging out at the hotels, poking around the cities and towns, going to a luau or two, climbing diamondhead, exploring the parks, taking the drive down the road to Hana, and everything else, I found more than enough to keep me happy.

All in all, I'm glad we went. I wouldn't be so quick to go back, or to suggest it for the cliched honeymoon trip, but it was certainly worth going at least once. (Twice for me, actually, since we went when I was a kid and again in my late teens.)